WP triumvirate the key

As part of a dangerous back-three combination, Vodacom Western Province fullback Gio Aplon elaborates on why his side has been successful this season.

Aplon has featured in all eight of WP’s games to date, but his wings have changed for various reasons throughout this year’s domestic competition. Joe Pietersen has only just come back from a concussion that saw him sidelined for over a month, Egon Seconds has fallen out of favour with the arrival of Fijian Sireli Naqelevuki and Zhahier Ryland has only since Pietersen’s injury become the choice No 14.

Each of these wingers have enjoyed some success this season, and Aplon confirms that due to the type of game WP are playing and because of how these wingers are inclined to the expansive style of play, continuity has never been a problem.

“As long as you have the same kind of players available in reserve, it will never effect your style of play,” Aplon told keo.co.za.
“You need individual brilliance but it is important to be able to function effectively as a combination. In that way, you will always keep the opposition guessing on the counter-attack. They can’t just focus on closing down a good attacking fullback in a good combination, they will need to worry about the wingers as well.”

Aplon described his relationship with each winger utilized this season. Naqelevuki has only been with the WP side for a few weeks, but his performance in the last game against the Pumas belies this fact. He has picked up the attacking movements of the Province backline very quickly, and this showed when he scored two tries at Newlands last Saturday.

“Initially, it was a problem of communication, as his English isn’t the best and he is very quiet,” explained Aplon. “But he is coping. I think that it doesn’t matter that he cannot fully understand what we are trying to say. He understands rugby and has a natural feel for the game.

“I enjoy playing with him as we are both Sevens players and so both like counter-attacking from the back.”

Zhahier Ryland has progressed through the ranks at a similar rate to Aplon, and as a result, the two have played a lot of rugby together.

“Egon and Joe are good players, but I think that my communication with Zhahier is probably the best. We have a great understanding of each others’ movements and running lines.”

Aplon, Naqelevuki and Ryland will start against the Sharks on Friday night, with Seconds and Pietersen coming off the bench in the second half.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed by Springbok media manager Vusi Kama that fullback JP Pietersen has not been released to play for the Sharks. SA U19 player Francois Steyn is likely to play at No 15 for the Durban-based side.

By Jon Cardinelli